I cite Jeff Strand’s novel DWELLER as one of the novels that heavily influence me as a writer. In fact, only Robert McCammon’s BOY’S LIFE is more influential on my writing.
DWELLER is one of the few novels that I’ve read where I connected with not one but two characters, Toby, and his friend, Owen, on a visceral level. Almost as much as I did with Cory in BOY’S LIFE.
My lifelong fascination with Bigfoot certainly elevated my love of DWELLER. But I had never read a book like it … and haven’t since. It chronicled the lifetime relationship between a boy and a monster in a way that hit me hard emotionally.
DWELLER is one of the few books that broke my heart.
DWELLER was originally released in 2010. I posted an Amazon review on March 26, 2011, titled “Best novel of 2010.” It read: “I’m an avid fan and reader of horror, and DWELLER was my favorite novel of 2010. Not a chiller-thriller, but Strand introduces you to an improbable relationship and grounds it in reality. I had to read it in one sitting to find out how this doomed relationship ended. What are the limits of friendship and loyalty? Strand certainly explores those themes, but ultimately DWELLER is just a masterfully written life journey full of nostalgia, especially for those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s and remembered playing in the woods, terrified but also secretly hoping to encounter Bigfoot.”
Seven years later, DWELLER continues working its magic on me. When I write, I refer back to it often, letting it inspire me to write relationships with the same emotional heft.
I’ve never met DWELLER author Jeff Strand, but he seems to appreciate his fans. He has a healthy (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor and regularly posts funny thoughts on his Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Strand is a prolific author, known for his mix of horror and comedy, but he’s also carving out his own niche in the young adult comedy genre.
The short bio on his website reads: “Jeff Strand is the four-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of 30+ books, including BLISTER, A BAD DAY FOR VOODOO, and WOLF HUNT. Cemetery Dance magazine said, “No author working today comes close to Jeff Strand’s perfect mixture of comedy and terror.” He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
If you want to read the best author bio on the web, Strand also has a Ridiculously Long Bio (his words), which you can read by clicking here.
Strand’s latest release is SICK HOUSE, a straight horror novel injected with his trademark humor. He has another young adult comedy being released in April titled HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE.
On a side note, I do want to recommend Strand’s road-trip romantic comedy, KUMQUAT. I’m not sure enough people know how wonderful this novel is because let’s face it: It’s a romantic comedy written by a horror author.
I’m no fan of romance. Just ask my girlfriend if you see her. By the way, have you seen her? We were talking about how I should be a bigger fan of romance. When I woke up, she was gone. Oh, there she is in the bathroom. Whew, that was close.
Anyway, I’m no fan of romance. I’m the one who can’t wait to read the next novel about inbred hillbilly cannibals. But KUMQUAT was a pleasant surprise and shows Strand can write anything and give it an emotional punch. I wrote in my Amazon review that KUMQUAT “had me smiling at times, tearing up at times, and, by the end, feeling better about life and love.”
Ahhhh, how sweet. I know, right? Not bad for someone who chooses inbred hillbilly cannibal novels over romance.
Without further ado, here’s THE JEFF STRAND INTERVIEW that I conducted via email.
LIONEL: What was the most recent movie you watched in theaters?
JEFF STRAND: GLEN OR GLENDA, made fun of live by Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.
LIONEL: What show are you binge-watching on Netflix?
JEFF STRAND: THE GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW. I share this information without comment.
LIONEL: What book are you reading?
JEFF STRAND: GOT YOUR BACK by my mortal enemy John McIlveen.
LIONEL: What song is stuck in your head?
JEFF STRAND: “Shiny” from MOANA.
LIONEL: If you ever wind up on death row, what’s your last meal?
JEFF STRAND: Drano, to save the state some money on electricity costs.
LIONEL: One of the great horror novelists, Jack Ketchum, died recently, and I read your blog tribute to him. Folks can read that post by clicking here. What separated Ketchum from the pack of horror writers to make him one of your literary heroes?
JEFF STRAND: Initially it was that, with OFF SEASON, I’d never read a book that was so horrifically violent! Now, of course, OFF SEASON seems … well, not tame, but there are far more graphic horror novels out there. But nothing in contemporary extreme horror can compare to something like THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, which remains one of the most disturbing novels ever written. It’s the mixture of Ketchum’s dark, dark, dark subject matter combined with outstanding writing that set him apart. It’s not a geek show. You desperately want the characters to get out of this nightmarish situation.
LIONEL: Your short story collection EVERYTHING HAS TEETH (Thunderstorm Books) and your short story “The Tipping Point” in that same collection were nominated for the first annual Splatterpunk Awards. You even have a short story in one of the Best Anthology nominees. Were you as surprised as me that you dominated the Splatterpunk Awards like you did?
JEFF STRAND: The proper answer is “Goodness, I never imagined that little ol’ me would be nominated for one of those awards!” but there was a process in place where you could wave to the jury and say “Hey! Hey! Take a look at this thing I wrote!” The majority of my work isn’t Splatterpunk, but I HAVE appeared in SPLATTERPUNK ‘ZINE a few times, and I think “The Tipping Point” is definitely part of that sub-genre. So I was pleased and surprised but not as surprised as you were. (Strand inserted a smiley face after this sentence.) The awards are being presented at KillerCon in Austin, Texas, and I’ll be there, so I’m looking forward to my devastating loss.
LIONEL: Your latest novel, SICK HOUSE (released Jan. 18) was a fun and intense ghost-drenched take on the home invasion story with a killer ending. You’re usually juggling several writing projects at the same time. What made SICK HOUSE jump to the top of your priority list?
JEFF STRAND: Without proper self-control, I could easily have 30 or 40 unfinished books in progress. Since readers are disinclined to purchase books that aren’t completed, at some point I have to turn one into my primary focus. I’m not great at high-concept stories, but once I came up with the idea that SICK HOUSE was a home invasion with ghosts, I thought, “Whoa! I can market the hell out of that!” I was way behind on writing because of a recent move from Florida to Georgia, so I didn’t have the luxury of tinkering around with multiple projects, so SICK HOUSE got the promotion!
LIONEL: Sourcebooks Fire is releasing HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE in April. I believe that will be your fifth young adult (YA) comedy since 2012. I enjoy them because they’re funny and fast-paced. However, I’m not a young adult anymore. I have reluctantly graduated into the middle-aged adult category, so I crave more Strand horror like DWELLER, PRESSURE, and SICK HOUSE. My question: When are you going to settle down and just write horror for us middle-aged fans who selfishly don’t care if YA readers ever laugh again?
JEFF STRAND: Though I suspect that the majority of my work will continue to be in the horror genre, I’ll always want to throw out the occasional non-genre title, whether YA or otherwise. My book immediately after HOW YOU RUINED MY LIFE will be BRING HER BACK, a brutal punch-to-the-gut thriller that fans of PRESSURE should enjoy, but you may also see another completely non-horror mainstream novel from me in the future. I’m a hybrid author, both traditionally and self-published, and it’s the YA novels that get into bookstores and libraries, so I’m disinclined to abandon them to appease the fans who just want the spooky stuff!
LIONEL: Seriously, I admire your ability to bounce back and forth from YA comedy to adult horror to short story collections to fairy tales (I love FANGBOY, by the way). You have 42 published books listed on your website (I counted). With so many novels and short stories in your catalog, is there one that fell through the cracks that you wished more people would’ve read?
JEFF STRAND: Well, FANGBOY would be one! Zach McCain’s cover is one of my favorite covers to ever grace my work, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to successfully convey that it’s a spoof of children’s literature and not a book for kids. KUMQUAT got some of my all-time best reviews but never sold particularly well, thanks to the fact that it’s a non-horror comedy and some people don’t want me writing that stuff (see previous question). But you asked about one, not two, so I’ll say FANGBOY.
It was an honor interviewing Mr. Strand. I’ve been a fan for more than seven years and consider him one of my literary horror heroes.
You can visit Strand’s website by clicking here.
I recommend the Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels, DWELLER (surprise!) and PRESSURE, for horror fans.
Did I mention that DWELLER is awesome? I did? Okay. Are you sure? Because it really is awesome. You want me to go now? Okay. Just put the knife away. I’m going. I’ll just leave this copy of DWELLER on the table here. You really should read it …
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